by Samuel Beckett.

Barbican Theatre (The Pit) Silk Street EC2Y 8D To 21 June 2015.
11.30am, 1.30pm, 3.30pm 20, 21 Jun.
4.30pm 19 Jun.
5.30pm 16-18 Jun.
6.30pm 19-21 Jun.
7.30pm 16-18 Jun (sold out).
9.30pm 16-21 Jun.
18 Jun all sold out.
Runs 1hr 10min No interval.

TICKETS: 020 7638 8891.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 14 June.

An act of darkness which deserves to be seen.
We are told that ‘theatre’ comes from ancient Greek ‘theatron’ – a watching place. Fortunately for Pan Pan, over from Ireland with this 1956 radio play, the idea of listening is validated in the term ‘auditorium’. Otherwise the Trade Descriptions Act might have to be brought into play.

For there’s nothing to see in this show, because there are no lights to speak of. Much of the time some spotlights gleam at some intensity, but they reveal nothing other than audience members sitting in rocking chairs.

No actors, though, not even to take a bow. They might be broadcasting simultaneously to theatrons round the world. Or sitting, feet up at home, while a recording is played.

The listening experience emphasises how physical conditions affect a performance. Radio drama is about the most intimate form there is – just voice, microphone and ear. But, the individual radio substituted by a sophisticated system speaking to a public space, we lose our particularity close involvement with Samuel Beckett’s unusually consistent narrative of Mrs Rooney’s lunchtime walk to the station to meet her husband, home from work on the lunchtime train.

The sounds being louder than at home points-up the comedy. Trudging feet, mooing cows, voices calling seem more theatrical – the background almost foregrounded. As the footsteps plod on, only to return with the surly husband, the sameness varied by different, transient meetings, suggesting wisps of life and Mrs Rooney’s existence, the mundane interrupted only by the fatal, the comedy gives grotesque casualness to her existence.

If the female voice apparently not recognising any this – and distanced by the panoply of sounds – looks forward to the inane joy of Winnie in Beckett’s Happy Days, some audience members seated in rocking chairs might cast minds forward to the deadly life of the much later Rockaby.

As a set of bulbs overhead, lit before and afterwards, recall the uncaring gods referred to in King Lear (discussed by Polish critic Jan Kott in connection to Beckett’s soon-to-be Endgame) so the wooden chairs – placed separately, though some drew together with partners) – and their death’s-head cushions, are our reminder of mortality.

Mrs Rooney: Áine Ni Mhuiri.
Christy: Phelim Drew.
Mr Tyler: Daniel Reardon.
Mr Slocum: David Pearse.
Tommy: Robbie O’Connor.
Mr Barrell: John Kavanagh.
Miss Fitt: Judith Roddy.
Female Voice: Sarah Greene.
Dolly: Nell Klemenčič.
Mr Rooney: Andrew Bennett.
Jerry: Joey O’Sullivan.

Director: Gavin Quinn.
Designer: Aedin Cosgrove.
Sound: Jimmy Eadie.
Dramaturg: Thomas Conway.

2015-06-15 09:28:35

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